Coming off a 4-0 loss to Brown last weekend, Harvard men’s hockey coach Mark Mazzoleni promised changes in his lineup and a renewed effort by his hockey team. This weekend’s games saw both, as the Crimson outworked, outmuscled and outscored Dartmouth and Vermont for its first two wins of the season.
The convincing wins relieve much of the anxiety over the shutout loss to Brown. Having proven to themselves they can indeed be an explosive offensive team, Harvard now looks to challenge the rest of the field for ECAC supremacy, beginning with a road trip to the North Country against St. Lawrence and Clarkson next weekend.
Harvard 4, Vermont 2
Harvard made a shooting gallery of the Bright Hockey Center Saturday, pelting Vermont goalie Travis Russell with 52 shots before the game mercifully came to a close for the Catamounts (2-4-2, 0-2-0 ECAC).
After exploding for its first five goals of the season a night earlier, Harvard (2-1-0, 2-1-0) lost little in its offensive production Saturday, scoring four goals in the first two periods before coasting to a 4-2 victory.
The first Harvard goal began with junior froward Tyler Kolarik charging towards the net. He skillfully eluded Catamount defenders before firing a shot at Russell.
The Vermont goalie made the initial save, but let the rebound trickle out towards the slot where Nowak promptly sent the puck back into the crease area. With the puck bouncing in the crease, freshman Dan Murphy rushed to the scene, tapping in the loose puck for his first goal of his college career.
The Harvard offense continued its onslaught in the second period, when, with Vermont forward Bryson Busnick in the penalty box for boarding, the Harvard power-play unit went to work.
Sophomore defenseman Noah Welch slipped a pass from the point to junior forward Tim Pettit. Spying captain Dominic Moore open at the left circle, Pettit zipped a pass to the Crimson captain, who faked a shot, drawing a Vermont defenseman to the ice. Moore then patiently skatedaround the Catamount defender and blasted a perfectly aimed shot over the shoulder of Russell.
The goal was Moore’s 100th point of his college career, making him the first Crimson player to accomplish that feat since brother Steve Moore did it in 2001.
After the game, Moore admitted he kept the landmark point in the back of his mind, but he did not want personal accomplishments to be his focal point.
“Right now I’m focusing on the task at hand, practices and games, and trying to get Harvard to the NCAA Tournament,” Moore said.
With the minutes counting down in the second period, senior forward Aaron Kim and junior forward Dennis Packard helped build the Harvard lead to four.
Kim started and ended the third Harvard tally. Killing off a David McCulloch cross-checking penalty, Kim blocked a Vermont shot before clearing the puck out of the Harvard zone. Seconds later, Kim was at the opposite end of the ice, hands lifted high in celebration after sweeping the puck past Russell in an impressive diving effort at the 14:22 mark.
Just a little over two minutes later, Packard completed the Harvard scoring with a second-chance goal coming off a shot by sophomore Brendan Bernakevitch.
After Vermont forward Ryan Miller was able to slip a goal by Harvard sophomore Dov Grumet-Morris in the waning moments of the second, Vermont made an effort to stage a comeback in the last period of regulation.
The game, however, was never really in doubt. A late Catamount goal with 34 seconds left in the game served only to soften the blow on the scoresheet. Harvard outworked and outclassed Vermont, their domination evident in the 30-shot differential.
“Their forwards were too strong for our forwards,” Vermont coach Mike Mulligan said. “They cycled it, we couldn’t pin them to the boards.”
Mazzoleni was encouraged by the Harvard effort.
“I thought we did a lot of things that we needed to do,” Mazzoleni said. “I thought we did good things mixing it up on our forecheck. We pressured at times [and] we jammed the neutral zone at times so we weren’t predictable. We pressured the puck well, got into their shot lanes and really kept things to the perimeter.”
Harvard 5, Dartmouth 2
The much-anticipated Harvard offense slumbered through its first four periods of hockey before awakening. But once senior center Brett Nowak notched the first goal of the season in the second period against Dartmouth Friday, the floodgates were open to an offensive outpouring.
The Crimson exploded for three second-period goals to take a 3-1 lead and then added two more with Dartmouth threatening in the game’s final seconds to gain its first win of the season, 5-2.
“We wore them down maybe a little bit and they were probably a little frustrated by the end of the game,” Moore said. “There are a lot of skilled guys on our team right now. That’s why we have such high expectations of ourselves. Last week [at Brown] wasn’t ideal, but we learned our lesson. We have to compete every night to get a win despite our talent level.”
The victory was much closer than the final score indicated.
After being blanked by Brown last week, Harvard came out strong in the first period, as the Crimsson was able to sustain pressure in the Big Green’s end, and generate quality scoring opportunities.
But despite playing well, Harvard trailed 1-0 after giving up a power-play goal to Dartmouth center Mike Ouellette at the 7:31 mark.
Dartmouth goalie Nick Boucher made that goal stand up early on, showing the same kind of dominance Brown’s goalie Yann Danis displayed over Harvard last week.
But Nowak ended Boucher’s shutout—and Harvard’s scoring drought—seven minutes into the second period, tallying on a wrister off a centering pass from freshman Charlie Johnson.
After allowing the goal, Dartmouth (1-3-0, 0-2-0) seemed to lose some composure, icing the puck several times with ill-advised passes. This only served to awaken the Harvard attack.
Kolarik gave Harvard the lead just minutes after Nowak’s strike. Set up on a power play, Moore directed the puck to junior forward Tim Pettit, who was stationed behind the net.
Drawing Big Green defenders with him, Pettit deftly shoveled a pass towards an awaiting Kolarik, who made no mistake lifting the puck over the shoulder of Boucher.
Moore widened the margin less than three minutes later. While skating four-on-four, defenseman Kenny Smith threaded a nice pass to the Harvard captain, who finished with a wrist shot beyond an outstretched Boucher.
Dartmouth was able to make the game interesting late in the third. After Grumet-Morris denied Ouellette on a shot from the slot, forward Lee Stempniak snuck a shot off the rebound past the Crimson netminder, cutting the lead to one.
But that’s as close as Darmouth came to winning the game, as Moore iced the contest with an empty net goal with 18 ticks left on the clock. Kolarik ended the scoring with his second goal of the night with only two seconds remaining.
The three-goal margin of victory did not reflect how closely this game was contested. Dartmouth skated with Harvard for much of the game, relinquishing goals that accounted for the wide margin only late in regulation.
“In the third period,” Mazzoleni said, “they were down and they were starting to take some chances, which opened up the game. It was the same thing last week at Brown. When you’re down, you’ve got to try to be more chancy than you’d like and consequently that bodes toward the other team’s output.”
Grumet–Morris finished with 37 saves for Harvard while his Dartmouth counterpart Boucher finished with 28.